Saudi doctor on the front line battle against coronavirus in Italy

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Dr. Nasser Alabdulaaly chose to stay in Italy to help battle the coronavirus. (Supplied)
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Dr. Nasser Alabdulaaly chose to stay in Italy to help battle the coronavirus. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Saudi doctor on the front line battle against coronavirus in Italy

  • Dr. Nasser Alabdulaaly is working in a hospital in one of the country's hardest hit regions - Lombardy
  • He describes the affect on the region as heartbreaking, but wanted to stay and help

On Jan. 31, the Italian government announced a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). COVID-19 has brought Italy into “its worst crisis since the war,” according to the Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte. To date there have been 110,574 confirmed cases resulting in 13,915 deaths, which have included an increasing number of doctors and health professionals who are carrying out heroic work in challenging conditions.

Among the healthcare workers in the front-line against COVID-19 here is Dr. Nasser Alabdulaaly, a 27-year-old Saudi doctor who is on the staff of the ASST Hospital of Lodi, in Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region. Alabdulaaly, who speaks fluent Italian, described his experience.

“I arrived in Italy in 2011 to study medicine at the University of Pavia, in Lombardy, thanks to a scholarship from the Saudi government. I obtained my medical degree and professional qualification in 2019. I was about to undertake a post-graduate training at the beginning of this year, when the coronavirus broke out in Italy, right in the area where I was living,” says Alabdulaaly.

“When the Saudi authorities offered me the opportunity to return to Saudi Arabia, I chose to stay in Italy. My degree doesn’t qualify me to work yet in the Kingdom; therefore, I could not have offered any contribution to my country.”

“In the meantime, Lombardy region was declared red-zone and in lockdown, the number of positive cases continued to rise, and there was a need for health workers to face the crisis. My hospital internship had been suspended due to the emergency and I was at home for the quarantine. In my silent lockdown city, I was hearing the sirens of the ambulances leaving the hospital relentlessly. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t stay at home knowing that I could make my contribution, even if small, to the local health service.”




Alabdulaaly obtained his medical degree and professional qualification in Italy in 2019. (Supplied)

With hospitals under extraordinary strain, Italy increased the number of doctors being recruited and also expedited the procedure for medical school graduates entering the workforce. Many Italian regions made appeals for health workers, and Nasser decided to take up the Lombardy region’s call. The region’s response was not long in coming.

“They were extremely happy to receive my application,” says Nasser. “They offered me work in four different cities: Cremona, Brescia, Bergamo or Lodi. I choose Lodi, even though I knew that, at that time, was the center of COVID-19.”

“I currently work with basic to medium intensity COVID19-positive patients in three different departments. On my first day at the hospital, I was impressed by the enormous workload of the doctors. They were giving their maximum professional and human commitment with courage and perseverance. My colleagues immediately welcomed me into the team, and we soon became a family.

“Working exclusively with COVID-19 positive patients, and specially with critical cases, means that you have to deal with death every day. I have to call their families and break the bad news. Believe me, it’s the toughest side of my mission. Relatives ask you, sometimes beg you, to allow them to see their beloved ones to give them a last farewell. But you can’t allow them. The priority is to protect them from the virus and contain the spread of the contagions.”

“Performing my first professional job in a time when the health industry is facing one of its biggest crises, is challenging and though. But I am proud and honored to give my help in this emergency, and to be in the front-line as part of a team of extraordinary doctors.”

*This interview was supplied by the Saudi embassy in Italy


A history of Saudi-French relations

Updated 24 min 12 sec ago

A history of Saudi-French relations

  • Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia have thrived over time

Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia, encompassing all aspects of mutually beneficial cooperation from trade and cultural agreements to defense pacts, have thrived over time. 

Key Dates

  • 1

    France opens a consulate in Jeddah, its first diplomatic post in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • 2

    Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the future king of Saudi Arabia, is the first member of the royal family to pay an official visit to France.

  • 3

    Full diplomatic relations begin when France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, the forerunner to the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, established in 1932.

  • 4

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 5

    In his role as Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal visits Paris after France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1932
  • 6

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 7

    Following the invasion of Egypt by France, Britain and Israel, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud severs diplomatic relations with France and Britain and halts oil shipments to both countries.

  • 8

    Diplomatic relations with France and Britain are restored.

  • 9

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a cultural and technical cooperation agreement.

  • 10

    The École Française Internationale opens in Jeddah, the first of a series of French schools that have since opened in the Kingdom.

    Timeline Image 1966
  • 11

    France condemns Israeli aggression; King Faisal visits French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris on his first state visit as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image June 1967
  • 12

    Saudi Arabia and France sign a military assistance agreement.

  • 13

    King Faisal makes a state visit to France, where he is received by President Georges Pompidou.

    Timeline Image October 1973
  • 14

    In a speech on a state visit to Riyadh, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the first French president to visit Saudi Arabia, salutes the Kingdom as a world power.

    Timeline Image January 1977
  • 15

    King Khaled bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud issues a royal decree approving a license for setting up Banque Saudi Fransi (named then Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi).

  • 16

    King Khaled travels to Paris on his first state visit to France.

    Timeline Image 1978
  • 17

    France sends equipment and military advisers to help Saudi special forces end the siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

  • 18

    French President Giscard d’Estaing again visits Riyadh.

    Timeline Image March 1980
  • 19

    Newly elected French President Francois Mitterrand’s first official visit outside Europe is to Riyadh.

    Timeline Image September 1981
  • 20

    King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes his first state visit to France as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1984
  • 21

    1996: Saudi Arabia and France agree upon a wide-ranging strategic partnership.

  • 22

    Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, governor of the Riyadh province and future king of Saudi Arabia, meets French President Jacques Chirac in Paris and signs a charter of cooperation and friendship between Riyadh and Paris.

    Timeline Image April 1997
  • 23

    The Saudi-French Business Council is founded.

  • 24

    Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes an official visit to Paris.

    Timeline Image April 2005
  • 25

    French President Jacques Chirac becomes the first western leader to address the Majlis in Saudi Arabia during a state visit.

    Timeline Image March 2006
  • 26

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a defense cooperation agreement.

  • 27

    King Abdullah returns to Paris for an official visit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Timeline Image June 2007
  • 28

    French President Sarkozy begins a two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia, which includes the signing of a cooperation agreement in the oil, gas and mining resources sectors.

    Timeline Image January 2008
  • 29

    Alliance Française, the organization dedicated to teaching French as a second language, opens offices in Saudi Arabia.

  • 30

    Newly elected French President François Hollande visits King Abdullah in Jeddah to discuss regional issues and continuing cooperation between the two countries.

    Timeline Image November 2012
  • 31

    President Hollande, accompanied by French business leaders, meets King Abdullah in Riyadh on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss commercial cooperation and to pledge that the two countries “will work for peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”

    Timeline Image December 2013
  • 32

    Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy prime minister and the future king of Saudi Arabia, makes a four-day official visit to France.

    Timeline Image Sept. 1, 2014
  • 33

    xx

    Timeline Image January 2015
  • 34

    President Hollande meets King Salman in Riyadh and addresses the first-ever summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council and France, pledging “to work with all my force to deepen this relationship and strategic partnership, with your member states and with your organization, at all levels.”

    Timeline Image May 5, 2015
  • 35

    Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman meets President Hollande in Paris as France and Saudi Arabia sign trade deals worth $12 billion.

    Timeline Image June 2015
  • 36

    A delegation of the Saudi-French Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shura Council meets Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations.

    Timeline Image May 15, 2016
  • 37

    French President Emmanuel Macron makes a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following an Iran-backed Houthi missile attack on Riyadh and to pledge to “work with Saudi Arabia for the purpose of guaranteeing stability in the region and the fight against terrorism.”

    Timeline Image November 2017
  • 38

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a guest at a gala dinner at the Élysée Palace on a three-day visit to Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron and secure contracts between French and Saudi companies worth $18 billion.

    Timeline Image April 2018
  • 39

    In Paris, in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, sign an intergovernmental agreement to collaborate on the development of AlUla as a major cultural and tourism destination.

    Timeline Image April 10, 2018
  • 40

    The Royal Commission for AlUla signs an agreement with Campus France to train Saudis who will work in hospitality at AlUla.

  • 41

    The French agency Afalula is founded in Paris to support the development of AlUla.

  • 42

    The AlUla tourism project is launched with plans for a luxury resort designed by French Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, due to open by 2023.

  • 43

    “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia,” an exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, highlights the Kingdom’s cultural treasure.

    Timeline Image October 2019
  • 44

    French President Emmanuel Macron is among the world leaders who attend a virtual extraordinary meeting of the G20 focused on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and hosted by King Salman.

    Timeline Image March 2020
  • 45

    France condemns a missile and drone attack on Riyadh by Yemen’s Houthi militia.